Nov 162012

I love reading anything that Australian scientist Richard Gawel writes. Richard wrote an article a few days ago on his blog, Slick Extra Virgin, about some of the prevalent myths surrounding extra virgin olive oil. The one myth that my poor little non-scientific brain had a hard time comprehending was the ‘green laser’ myth. Richard explains it very well and in terms I can understand.

It’s bad enough that there is a culture of mislabeling and adulteration in the world of olive oil, but there are plenty of fake stories surrounding olive oil health benefits, storage, cooking, etc. It’s an ongoing conundrum for those who would like to inform the public about olive oil truths and which extra virgin olive oils are the best after each harvest. Richard Gawel is one of those people who does an excellent job of keeping the public and even the professionals on track.

Slick Extra Virgin » How extra virgin olive oil myths are born

May the sun shine through your branches.

Feb 242012

Ever since I wrote about the Organizzazione Nazionale Assaggiatori Olio di Oliva’s (ONAOO) Olive Oil Tasting Course in English in Imperia, Italy I’ve had lots of folks ask if there were any olive oil tasting classes in the United States. So here you go dear readers. Please share with your oleophilic friends.

If you want to attend, make sure you register soon. The price goes up on March 1st.

Sensory Evaluation of Olive Oil
University of California, Davis
March 30 & 31, 2012

This two-day course is designed for olive oil producers and processors, food retailers and marketers, food service professionals, chefs, and consumers. The course will include discussions and tastings that will focus on:

  • The basics of olive oil sensory evaluation
  • Mechanics of how to taste olive oil
  • How to identify sensory defects in olive oil
  • The role of maturity and variety in oil flavor and style
  • Sensory evaluation as a science
  • An overview of processing alternatives their effects on oil style, and positive oil characteristics
  • Tasting of single variety oils
  • How to evaluate olive oil quality
  • Consumer olive oil preferences
  • Blind tastings of oils from around the world

Who: Paul Vossen, Cooperative Extensive Farm Advisor, Sonoma-Marin Counties
Where: Silverado Vineyards Sensory Theater, Robert Mondavi Institute Sensory Building, UC Davis
When: Friday, March 30th and Saturday, March 31st, 2012
Prerequisite: No prerequisite necessary
Price: $495 full two-day program, fees increase to $545 on March 1st
Registration: Available through UC Davis Campus Events
Contact: Nicole Sturzenberger,
Hotels: The Olive Center has secured special rates for attendees at the Hallmark Inn in Davis,  $109/night for one King, $119/night for two Queens. Our group code is UCD Olive. Please call the hotel for details, (530) 753-3600.

Here is a copy of the tentative agenda.

Agenda (Tentative)

Sensory Evaluation of Olive Oil

Friday March 30, 2012 – Olive Oil Sensory Basics
8:30 am Coffee and pastries – registration and parking (unless you paid for parking you will get a ticket)
9:00 am Welcome and IntroductionDan Flynn, Director of the UC Davis Olive Center, Davis, CA
9:05 am Lecture: Mechanics and Vocabulary of Olive Oil Tasting; Sensory Science as it Pertains to Olive Oil; Recognizing Scents in Olive Oil; Blue Glass; Profile Sheets; Taste Panel; IOC Recognition; Positive Attributes in Olive Oil as Influenced by Variety and Maturity.Tasting: Olive Oil Attributes (5 oils to taste).Paul Vossen, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor, Sonoma-Marin Counties
10:15 am Break
10:45 am Lecture: What is Olive Oil; How Olive Oil is Made; Effects of Processing on Oil Flavor; Classic Olive Oil Defects and Positive Attributes.Tasting: What Makes an Oil Extra Virgin (6 oils to taste).Paul Vossen, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor, Sonoma-Marin Counties
12:00 pm Lunch
1:00 pm Lecture: An Evaluation of the Sensory Properties of Australian Olive Oils.Richard Gawel, Founder of the Australian Taste Panel and Olive Oil Judge
1:30 pm Lecture: World View of Olive Production and Consumption; History of Olive Oil Production in Europe; Influences on California and the New World.Tasting: Traditional Styles (6 oils to taste).Paul Vossen, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor, Sonoma-Marin Counties
2:45 pm Break
3:15 pm Lecture: Olive Oil Standards and Quality; UC Study on Oils in the California Market.Dan Flynn, Director of the UC Olive CenterTasting: California and Its Competition; UC Research in Improving Quality (6 oils to taste).Paul Vossen, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor, Sonoma-Marin Counties Questions: Session on Improving California’s Olive Oils.
4:30 pm Adjourn No-host reception at Seasons (1st and F Streets, Davis)
Saturday March 31, 2012 – Exploring Oil Styles
8:30 am Pastries, Coffee, and Juice
9:00 am Lecture: Single Varietal Olive Oils; Distinct Styles of Oil by Variety.Tasting: Single-Varietal Oils (taste 6 oils).Paul Vossen, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor, Sonoma-Marin Counties
9:45 am Lecture: Olive Oil and Food.Fran Gage, Chef, Author, Olive Oil Judge, and UC Taste Panel member
10:15 am Break
10:45 am Lecture: Health Benefits of Olive Oil; The Science and the Hype.Paul Vossen, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor, Sonoma-Marin Counties
11:15 am Lecture: The Effects of Modern Cultural Practices on Olive Oil Quality. Irrigated or Non-Irrigated, Organic or Conventional, and High Density or Medium Density.Tasting: Oils direct from producers (taste 4 oils).Paul Vossen, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor, Sonoma-Marin Counties
12:15 pm Lunch
1:15 pm Lecture: Flavored Olive Oils.Tasting: (5 flavored oils).Paul Vossen, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor, Sonoma-Marin Counties
2:00 pm Lecture: The Best of the Best; In-Depth Analysis of Well-Made Olive Oils.Tasting: Award Winning Oils from Around the World (3 oils).Darrell Corti, Corti Brothers, Sacramento (invited)
2:45 pm Break
3:15 pm Lecture: You Be the Judge – What Makes an Award Winning Oil? Taste Along with a Panel of Judges as if in a Competition Awarding Medals. (taste 6 oils).Judges: Paul Vossen, Fran Gage, and Darrell Corti (invited)
4:15 pm Adjourn


Now, go register!

May the sun shine through your branches.

Feb 112012

Have you ever kept a tab in your browser open as a reminder to read an article or look at a website? I have and do it too much. The tabs get really tiny and then the reason for having the tab open in the first place, a memory jogger, diminishes since I can’t read the tab content. The tab for the Business Wire article, Research and Markets: Antioxidants from Olive Waste – Patent and Technology Report – Key Players, Innovators and Industry Analysis Focuses On Finding the Key Innovators and the Industry, has been open for almost a month now and it’s time to close it.

Personally, I love research articles, but not being a scientist or scientific researcher, I can’t synthesize them and do them justice. For the last year I’ve been getting my research analysis fixes from Australian wine and olive oil scientist, Richard Gawel, but he’s been busy gardening. Hurry back Richard from your dirt worshiping – I’m jonesing.

Olive and olive oil producing countries are on the rise and so is the need to reuse, recycle, or repurpose olive waste and byproducts. There are many challenges and opportunities in this area. The company that authored this pr piece linked above, Dolcera, is a patent and market research company. Their “report focuses on finding the key innovators and the industry ecosystem through relevant patents, clinical trials and university data encompassing research in the commercially viable area of producing antioxidants from olive wastes and their applications in different fields.”

What that means in real people talk is – if you’re looking to make money in olive waste and byproducts they will help you. And, of course, they will make some money too. If you are interested in making money off the antioxidants left over from olive waste and byproducts then you will need to buy their report before determining if this is what you want to do. Or you can just try to do it anyway. This is always the capitalist conundrum.

At last – I can close the tab. My mouse if poised over the red x and click – the tab is closed. Ahhhhh!

May the sun shine through your branches.


Nov 012011

The argument of old versus new always seems to gin up emotions and opposition. Whether it’s olive varieties and growing techniques, olive oil packaging, or membership in the Old World Club (aka International Olive Council/IOC) passions are inflamed. Inflamed or not, the world is changing and so are the olive and olive oil industries. Here are a few observations about packaging and my freely proffered opinions.

If you do or don’t like what I have to say about olive oil packaging, give me an intelligent argument and not an outburst. Discussions about olive oil packaging can get heated.  There is the clear glass vs. dark glass debate; the glass vs. plastic debate; the decant vs. keep it in original container debate; and now thanks to two innovative companies, one in South Africa and one in Australia there are some new packaging debates to enliven your future. Let’s explore them.

This past June I read an article by South African journalist, food and wine critic, and sausage entrepreneur, Peter James-Smith. It was entitled Pink Sauce but toward the end of the article he mentioned a new type of olive oil bottle created for and used by the South African olive oil producers at Willow Creek. Peter and I emailed a bit and he sent me the press release about Willow Creek’s award winning olive oil squirt bottle and then I settled in for a think about the bottle’s virtues or weaknesses.

In the meantime, I received a comment from an incredulous Olive Crazy reader accusing me of the atrocity of supporting the squirt bottle, even though I had merely stated that it existed. However, now ye of little inventiveness and foresight, bring it on. I officially have decided that I like the squirt bottle. MAIS NON!

I have a tendency, just like a lot of folks, to go with the tried and true and ignore the virtues of the new, but I’ve decided to stop giving in to the intellectual laziness of succumbing to tradition in an industry that is again vibrant and new. So squirt bottle, I am venturing into newness by liking you and bowing to the end of the dribbling and puddling in my kitchen each time I drizzle or pour my favorite extra virgin olive oil. I also like that your bottle is dark and even though it is plastic, it doesn’t have the nasties that some plastic bottles contain. Thumbs up.

Now for the second, new, olive oil packaging, there is the Barossa Olive Oil Company’s Ollo Extra Virgin Olive Oil in an airtight, collapsible-bladder, food-service packaging. For the folks in a commercial kitchen instead of big tin cans that are difficult to completely empty, this seems like an improvement.

I also read about the Ollo packaging, in retail form, on Australian scientist, Richard Gawel’s blog, Slick Extra Virgin. I haven’t seen it available in stores in the Atlanta area, but that doesn’t mean isn’t available somewhere on the continent. You must read his comments on the packaging. I couldn’t have said it better.

Whether it’s packaging or anything else about the olive and olive oil industries these days, you can be sure controversy isn’t far behind and I look forward to fanning the flames.

May the sun shine through your branches.

Jul 052011

Every day there is some new article about the health benefits of extra virgin olive oil and olive oil in general. What the heck are we supposed to believe and where is all the research? I do what my Mom taught me – “take everything with a grain of salt” and “read everything”. That’s pretty good advice even though a daunting task when confronted with a world of information that we sometimes must take at it’s word, since we simply can’t “read everything”.

As for where is the research, I find studies and commentary in many of the medical and scientific journals and from the blogs written by scientists that read and help process the specialized lingo for us lay folk. In an attempt to do what Mom advised, here’s a little reading I’ve been doing.

This past week I read Australian scientist, Dr. Richard Gawel‘s, latest blog article “This weeks pick of Extra virgin olive oil research“. At the end of his article he talks about a research study from the “British Journal of Nutrition” entitled “Absorption and metabolism of olive oil secoiridoids in the small intestine”. Now, I did not read the study since I’m not in the position to shell out $45.00 US for this worthy document. I contented myself with the abstract and dictionary to look up all the words I did not know, which was about half of them. Then I further contented myself with Richard Gawel’s assessment. Here are the results of what I gathered from all my reading.

Mr. Olive Crazy, the Human Reactor

I asked Mr. Olive Crazy to pose for this picture to help me demonstrate what I learned from both the abstract and Richard Gawel.

Our bodies act as chemical reactors that break down stuff we eat. In the stuff we eat are good things, like iridoids. Iridoids (secoiridoids/polyphenols)  are in plants and some animals, and act, in our bodies, as defense against microorganisms. There are also bad things that make there way through our reactor, but they are not featured in todays topic.

What this study found out is that the polyphenols (iridoids) in the extra virgin olive oil you ate for dinner broke down to phenolics that were indistinguishable from the phenolics of some other part of your dinner, and in some cases were then enzymatically reduced losing a couple of electrons and then binding to a certain sugar molecule (since your little tummy reactor just bound your evoo with a sugar I guess that means you already had dessert).

Apparently the big deal is, that all these changes in the polyphenols (iridoids) were not properly followed through our “reactors” in previous studies, so we don’t really know the extent of the the health benefits of the polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil.

Does that mean I am going to stop being Olive Crazy? No chance. But I am going to talk to Mr. Olive Crazy about slimming his “reactor” or maybe take some art lessons.

May the sun shine through your branches.